08/15/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT
Notice how "cute" has degenerated into an all-purpose defense of movie pap? Some willingly swallow the contrivances of Cocktail because the film's star, toothy Tom Cruise
, is "so cute." Others titter at Dudley Moore's now pathetic drunk routine in Arthur 2 On the Rocks because "Dudley's so cuddly." This summer we've been dive-bombed with dimples. It's an epidemic. There are cutesy comics (Chevy Chase in Funny Farm), cutesy sidekicks (Arsenio Hall in Coming to America), cutesy kids (the whole brood in The Great Outdoors), cutesy teens (Corey Feldman and Corey Haim in License to Drive), cutesy ingenues (Penelope Ann Miller in Big Top Pee-Wee), cutesy heroes (Anthony Edwards in Mr. North), cutesy villains (Robert Stack in Caddy-shack II), cutesy dwarfs (Warwick Davis in Willow) and cutesy robots (No. 5 in Short Circuit 2). You don't know whether to applaud a performer or pinch his cheeks. Actors now seem to aspire to be labeled by an adjective best reserved for babies, Bambi and Disney bunnies. Why? Because cuteness can sell tickets when it is shaped by talent into charm, style, wit, substance. Tom Hanks pulls it off in Big. But that feat ain't easy, as illustrated by this week's crop of cutesy contenders.